I can tell you up front that today’s game was much better than last night’s (or rather this morning’s). And somehow, the shortened sleep time didn’t seem to bother anyone. Okay, it probably explains why some people were given the day off. But then again, everyone still showed up early because of Season Pass Holder Photo Day — the day when full season pass holders get a meet and greet with the players, coaches, media staff, and various other VIPs. It’s a great time for the Yankees to thank the fans that support them all year round and the fans are rarely disappointed.
But then there was a game to play against the Rays. And it was business as usual. Masahiro Tanaka started the game, and he knew that he carried the hopes of the team to pitch deep into the game, sparing an exhausted bullpen. And he complied with 113 pitches in 7 innings, giving up 8 hits, 3 runs, and just 5 strikeouts (which should sound like a lot, but it’s not because it’s Tanaka). Where Tanaka really struggled was the 2nd inning, which Tanaka later admitted to not being able to find his splitter. Those runs came as a solo home run in each of the 1st and 4th, and a pesky RBI single in the 2nd. But the Rays had nothing else to threaten the play, going into the bottom of the 4th with a 3-0 lead.
And thus the Yankees offense was lit in the 4th inning and they continued to score in every consecutive inning. With Brett Gardner on base, Mark Teixeira continued his hot streak behind the plate with a nice 2-run home run in the 4th. In the 5th, Ichiro Suzuki doubles and then scored on Jacoby Ellsbury’s ground-rule double. And suddenly the game is tied 3-3. But the Yankees aren’t done yet. Kelly Johnson is the one that pushes the Yankees into the lead in the 6th with a solo home run into the Yankees bullpen. In the 7th, Ellsbury singled, Gardner singled, Teixeira singled home Ellsbury, and then Alfonso Soriano’s sacrifice fly scored a sliding Gardner. (6-3 Yankees)
Dellin Betances came on in the 8th in relief of Tanaka and did what he does best — shut down the Rays. He has become one of the most consistent and reliable forces in the bullpen, and even being compared to some other Yankee greats that have passed through the pinstriped pen.
And into the 8th, the Yankees continued their offensive recharge. Roberts led off with a double and scored on Ichiro’s double. Ichiro moved to 3rd on a ground out, and Ellsbury walked and stole 2nd base, put both of them in place to do some more damage. Which they did as both speedy runners Ichiro and Ellsbury scored on Gardner’s single. And suddenly it was 9-3 Yankees.
Preston Claiborne worked a quick 1-2-3 9th inning to snap the losing streak the Yankees carried into May, and giving Tanaka got his 4th win of the season (he still has no losses). Despite that 2nd inning, it really was Tanaka’s game and he got the support he needed when he needed it from the players and their bats today. It’s enough that already people are pseudo-complaining on social media about why we can’t have Tanaka pitch for every game. Nice thought, but let’s save that for when we’re more bionic as a society and impervious to normal human fragility and exhaustion. (I may have been watching too many sci-fi movies lately.)
And roster moves: before today’s game, Chris Leroux was designated for assignment to make room for the signing and recalling of Alfredo Aceves from AAA. Aceves has had a good Spring and could be that needed emergency relief while the team adjusts to some of the roster injury updates.
Oh, and there’s still one more game left in this series against the Rays before they hit up the West Coast for a week. But then, even with the weather finally feeling like Spring, who wouldn’t want a week on the West Coast? Even if you have to play a couple of games…